5 min read
Dec 2021

Economics of Mutuality Forum at Erasmus University Rotterdam


Published December 2021

‘Companies should profit from solving the world’s problems, not from creating them. An important question to ask is this, ‘Is the world better off because your company is in it or not?’’

It was with these words that Paul Polman, former Unilever CEO and Saïd Business School Chair, started his presentation on November 25th at the Economics of Mutuality Forum at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam which explored the theme ‘A Call for Courageous Leadership: Transforming Business Performance for People, Planet and Profit.’

The event took place in person and online and included keynote speeches, panel discussions, masterclasses, and workshops. Organized and moderated by Arleen Westerhof, it was a collaboration between the Center for the Economics of Mutuality and the Erasmus Initiative for the Dynamics of Inclusive Prosperity (DoIP). It focussed on how organisations can leverage the Economics of Mutuality to enact purpose within the Dutch/European context. Click the button below to watch the recording.

There has never been a time in which it has been more urgent for us to change and align business practices to benefit people and planet than now. Before the Forum it was already clear that a majority of CEOs, and others, agreed with these ideas, but so far only a few companies have had the courage to act decisively and actively to change their modus operandi.

However, companies need to act now and a sense of urgency is necessary to create a tipping point. Our planetary boundaries and societies demand this and the EU will soon be making it mandatory. There is already legislation in the pipeline that will require all medium and large sized companies in the EU, from 2024 onwards, to prove they have a purpose that benefits others.

The role of business must be redefined and, together, with other like-minded organizations, the Center for the Economics of Mutuality is committed to accelerating the transition to the next era of purpose-driven capitalism with the aim of seeing a community of Economics of Mutuality businesses established throughout the Netherlands and the wider world.

Bruno Roche, Economics of Mutuality Founder and Executive Director said in his keynote address that, ‘Gone are the days when companies can expect to continue to profit from creating problems for society and the environment.’ He ended his presentation by offering a practical step that interested companies can take. EoM Solutions has developed the Purpose Scanner, which helps leaders ask the right questions so they can act decisively on their journey towards ensuring their organizations are purpose-led.

Other notable speakers included:

  • Jan Peter Balkenende: Former Prime Minister of the Netherlands; External Senior Advisor to EY; Professor at Erasmus University Rotterdam.

  • Colin Mayer: Oxford University’s Saïd Business School Emeritus Professor; Blavatnik School of Government Visiting Professor.

  • Joep Cornelissen: Professor of Corporate Communication and Management, Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University Rotterdam.

  • Tine De Moor: Professor of Social Enterprise and Institutions for Collective Action, Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University Rotterdam.

  • Aart Jan de Geus: Chairman Executive Board at Goldschmeding Foundation.

  • Muriel Arts: CEO at IMPACTING.today

  • Marlies van Wijhe: Chairperson at FBNed; General Director at Koninklijke Van Wijhe Verf B.V.


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